An East German breaks off a piece of the Berlin Wall.

Youth tear down pieces of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.

November 9, 1999 witnessed a triumph for cold war opponents: the East German government announced the destruction of the Berlin Wall. Within hours, chisel-wielding crowds were dismantling the Wall one piece at a time.

Tearing down the Wall signaled not only the end of a city's 28-year separation but also the crumbling of cold war forces that had been brewing since 1945, with the post-World War II division of Berlin into four zones, one each for the United States, The Soviet Union, France and Great Britain.

By June 1948, tensions between the Soviet Union and the other occupying powers had disintegrated to a blockade -- the Soviets severed the distribution of basic services and supplies to Berlin. In response, the United States, the Soviet Union and Great Britain airlifted food and other necessities to the city until May 1949.

Strife between the two sides continued to escalate over the following decade. In November 1958, Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev demanded that the Western powers vacate their zones of occupation within six months. The Western nations refused to budge.

The fate of the city was sealed when relations between Krushchev and President John F. Kennedy failed during a June 1961 meeting. Two months later, the Berlin Walls - a larger, concrete wall that faced the western half of the city and an additional shadow wall on the eastern side - were erected. Guard dogs and troops patrolled the walls, preventing defections.

It was not until the 1980s, with the warming of relations between President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, that support for the Wall's existence started to show cracks. Perestroika and Glasnost, hallmarks of Gorbachev's administration, paved the way for a change in heart of the East German government, as did Reagan's exhortation to "tear down this wall."

Following the destruction of the Wall, it was only a matter of time until East and West Germany were reunited - a feat that occurred on October 3, 1990.